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Jackson promoter files suit

The fallout from Michael Jackson canceling his world tour continued Tuesday with the filing of a $ 20 million lawsuit demanding the pop star return money he earned for dates he never played. The suit also alleges the singer defrauded promoters by concealing his drug addiction and the existence of a criminal investigation into charges Jackson sexually molested a 13-year-old boy.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by concert promoter Marcel Avram, alleges the singer only performed 24 dates of an international 43-date schedule, canceling an entire 10-date second leg for which he had already been paid a $ 900,000 fee.

Avram is also seeking $ 2 million in fees paid to Jackson inadvance of the tour.

When the singer canceled the remainder of the world tour, promoters were forced to return money to more than 250,000 ticket-holders, causing losses by Avram and local promoters contracted for Jackson performances.

Concealment alleged

The lawsuit’s fraud allegations stem from the singer’s concealment of his addiction to prescribed painkiller medication, reportedly discovered by a Bangkok physician hired by Jackson on Aug. 24, but kept from Avram and his staff.

The suit claims Jackson also concealed his addiction at an Aug. 4 meeting at the singer’s manager’s office between Jackson and Avram, before the start of the tour. Avram states in the lawsuit he was assured by Jackson that nothing would affect his ability to perform on tour.

According to the suit, there was also no mention of the child-molestation allegations aimed at the singer, even though the investigation by Santa Barbara County Sheriffs and the Los Angeles Police Dept. had been under way for more than a month, and Jackson lawyer Bert Fields had already brought in security consultant Anthony Pellicano, who launched his own investigation.

Once on tour, Jackson was so preoccupied with his problems stateside that, according to the lawsuit, when he did perform, he failed to live up to contracted standards, often delivering shows with shortened set lists, lengthy pauses between songs and absences from the stage for long periods of time.

Avram’s attorney Don Engel, who has been in negotiations with the Jackson camp for the past six weeks, said Jackson should at least refund the money for the shows he never performed, and pay vendors who have out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the tour.

Avram is also being sued, according to Engel, by several sub-promoters, as well as numerous tour tradespeople such as carpenters. A tour-charter company has also filed a lawsuit against Avram for $ 2.6 million for unpaid air-fare costs. The stage set at the New Delhi tour stop has been seized by the Indian government and is being held as an asset to help offset losses by locals in conjunction with the tour.

The lawsuit was filed after negotiations broke down between Engel and Jackson’s representatives: Fields (who later resigned as Jackson’s lawyer), MJJ Enterprises chief Steve Chabray, Jackson co-manager Jim Morey and the singer’s new accountant, Marshal Gelfand.

Jackson is using the force majeure clause in his tour contracts as a defense to avoid accountability for the date cancellation. Force majeure often allows nonperformance of contract terms through “acts of god” or circumstances that are unpreventable by either party. Jackson is claiming his addiction to painkillers fits this description.

“My client returned advances he received from promoters (on the tour),” Engel said. “Mr. Jackson should do the same. We are not seeking publicity, only equitable treatment.” Promoters at each of the venues were said to have paid between $ 750,000 and $ 1 million to land the pop star.

Reputation marred

Engel also says his client’s reputation in the industry has been damaged and Avram is unable to get promoters or vendors to work with him on other tours.

Fields, who spearheaded settlement negotiations before resigning as Jackson’s lawyer, was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. Chabray, Morey and Gelfand did not return telephone calls.

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